Bahrain - Articles
Jail sentences, torture and disappearances make the headlines. But, as rights defenders in Bahrain, Egypt and Turkey have found out, other forms of harassment can leave deep scars too.
Bahraini women’s rights activist Ghada Jamsheer has been a thorn in the side of King Hamad’s image of a progressive reformist, and she has been punished for it.
With over 300,000 followers on Twitter, Bahraini rights defender Nabeel Rajab's activism online has undeniably made him a voice of influence in Bahrain and the region at large. Unfortunately, his persistence in exposing state violations online has also led to several run-ins with the law, the most recent of which has landed him in solitary confinement.
Prominent Bahraini human rights advocate Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja spent 12 years in exile advocating for human rights in his homeland. When he returned, he was sentenced to life in prison for inspiring his fellow Bahrainis to do the same.
Bahrain has announced a retrial for hunger-striking political activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and 20 others accused of plotting against the state in the Arab Spring protests last year, report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International and Human Rights Watch. The IFEX members are disappointed that the activists remain in custody pending the retrial, and are calling for their immediate release.
Since an official commission of inquiry reported last November, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has documented at least 31 "extrajudicial killings" in Bahrain. Most of the deaths were from teargas inhalation, including three in the past week alone, and three were as a result of torture in custody, says BCHR in a new report. Human Rights Watch also issued its own report following a national commission's assessment that lauded the government's progress.
On Tuesday's one-year anniversary of Bahrain's uprising, security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters trying to retake Pearl Square, the epicentre of last year's protests, and arrested dozens - including several international observers, report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and news reports.
Bahrain spent the week preparing for Tuesday's one-year anniversary of its uprising by deploying thousands of security forces to confront anti-government protesters, rejecting journalists' applications for entry visas, and arresting and deporting two international observers from the U.S. IFEX and its members are calling for support on 14 February to help avoid further violence. Find out what is happening and what you can do here.
Bahrain has failed to deliver on promises of reform despite a highly-touted commission of inquiry, says a report from an international mission to the country. "Justice Denied in Bahrain: Freedom of Expression and Assembly Curtailed" finds that rights violations continue daily, and individuals jailed during the government crackdown in February and March 2011 remain in prison.
The arrest of international cause célèbre "Angry Arabiya" and the death of a five-day-old girl as a result of a tear gas attack have become the latest events threatening to overshadow Bahrain's promises of reform following a highly critical report into the pro-democracy protests earlier this year, say the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Index on Censorship and other IFEX members.
All human rights defenders and activists should be freed in Bahrain, said an international mission supported by IFEX, which visited the country this past week to investigate the current state of freedom of expression. The call comes in the wake of a much-anticipated report from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) presented on 23 November, as well as a human rights report issued by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and other local groups.
Bahrain's widely boycotted by-elections on 24 September and 1 October were the background setting for multiple military court hearings that condemned dozens of journalists, activists, teachers and doctors to long prison terms. They were targeted for speaking out in favour of reforms during demonstrations in February or simply for doing their jobs, report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and other IFEX members. Among those arrested during the elections were 45 female protesters, some of whom have been reportedly tortured.
The governments of at least three Arab countries - Egypt, Bahrain and Kuwait - have launched investigations into or prosecuted Twitter activists, provoking other countries in the region to follow suit, reports the Arabic Network of Human Rights Information (ANHRI).
As president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and one of the country's leading rights activists, Nabeel Rajab has been closely monitored by the government, barred from leaving the country, beaten and harassed. His family home has been attacked with tear gas and armed invasions. One night, while he slept, dozens of masked gunmen stormed his house and abducted him, then drove him around in a vehicle all night and assaulted him - before returning him home. The Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington is honouring Rajab with this year's Ion Ratiu Democracy Award (IRDA) to give international recognition to his courageous fight for democracy in Bahrain.
The prospects for peace in Bahrain are not looking as bright now that the main opposition party, Al-Wefaq, has pulled out of the national dialogue, and the government continues to crack down on its critics, report the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and other IFEX members.
Eight Bahraini human rights and political activists - including former head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Adbulhadi al-Khawaja and renowned blogger Abduljalil al-Singace - were given life sentences today by a military court, which found them guilty of plotting a coup against the government during two months of unrest earlier this year, report BCHR, Human Rights Watch, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and the "Guardian".
Security forces prevented IFEX member Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), from attending the IFEX General Meeting and Strategy Conference in person in Beirut last week. But they couldn't prevent him from talking about recent human rights abuses in Bahrain via Skype, nor IFEX members and partners who were listening from initiating an international mission to Bahrain in the coming days. This was just one of the many highlights of the IFEX 2011 conference.
Even as the King of Bahrain promises to end the state of emergency he imposed in mid-March to quell anti-government demonstrations, journalists, rights activists and opposition leaders continue to be arrested, with dozens of them hastily tried. Forty-two IFEX members and 15 partners are appealing to the international community to end their silence and demand that the Bahraini government take action against the rights abuses.
Last week, the president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Nabeel Rajab, made history as the first person prosecuted in the Arab world for a tweet, reports the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI). He was accused of alerting readers through Twitter to "fabricated" pictures of the tortured body of Ali Isa Saqer, who Rajab alleged died at the hands of security forces in a Bahraini prison. While Bahrain is quickly turning into a police state, IFEX has expressed concern for Rajab and the sudden escalation of arrests and threats against other free expression advocates in Bahrain.
Nabeel Rajab, the head of IFEX member Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was briefly held and beaten by security forces on 20 March, days after Bahraini security forces killed at least four protesters and arrested opposition figures. The arrest appears part of a broader government offensive involving pre-dawn raids of terror on the homes of those viewed as supporting pro-democracy protesters, according to BCHR, Human Rights Watch and other IFEX members. Rajab says he is the only human rights defender in Bahrain currently not in hiding or detention.